Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Love, But Other People Don’t

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

In this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, it’s all about the haters. Which literary characters do you love, but other readers don’t–or vice versa?

I think that this is a great topic, because I’ve always gravitated toward characters with an edge, whether they’re bad boys in romance novels or super villains in comic books. Nobody likes a goody-two-shoes, after all!

My top ten list features men, women, and the occasional dragon or anti-christ who have betrayed–even murdered–those closest to them. However, all in my mind have redeemable qualities and justifications for their actions. Call them awful, selfish, ruthless, or evil, but you certainly can’t call them one-dimensional!

Carey Mulligan as Daisy (Image via Wikipedia)

So-Called “Selfish” Women

1. Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Edna Pontellier from The Awakening by Kate Chopin
3. Medea from Medea by Euripides

Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff (Image via Wikipedia)

Debatable “Leading” Men

4. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
5. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
6. Meursault from The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Malfoys with Bellatrix (Image via Harry Potter Wiki)

Villains Better Than Heroes

7. The Malfoys from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
8. Smaug from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. Lady Macbeth from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
10. Satan from Paradise Lost by John Milton

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Image via MovieWeb

Rating: 3 out of 5

Sigh…after more than a decade in the universe of Middle-earth, I’m so sad that the journey is over. However, I’m more depressed that it ended with such a disappointing finale.

In “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” there are so many loose ends to tie together: Smaug must be defeated, Lake-town must be rebuilt, and Erebor must be reclaimed. Not to mention, all the plot lines that have to be connected to bring the story full circle.

Unfortunately, the pacing was so off that you walk away without a true sense of closure. Smaug is defeated within the first 20 minutes, and the build-up to the battle seems more significant than the battle itself. When the company of dwarves loses its beloved members, the rest of the fight is simply forgotten with Bilbo ready to bail without saying goodbye. The ending of the fellowship, this sure isn’t.

Granted, it’s been forever since I’ve read the book, so I could be mistaken to call the movie’s tone inauthentically cold. Unlike “The Return of the King,” in which I bawled during the last half hour, I didn’t feel much of an emotional connection to the characters. The film was sterile, simply going through the motions.

It certainly didn’t help that the emphasis on CGI and special effects made you feel like you were watching a very long video game cut scene. All the uniqueness of the previous two films’ technical advancements felt overdone during a massive battle scene. No epic speeches to rally the troops, no panoramic shots of landscapes previously based on paintings or set miniatures, just a whole lot of computerized soldiers on a digital landscape.

While I enjoyed the character development of Thorin as he fell victim to the dragon-sickness of greed, there was little other acting of depth. Ian McKellen was reported to be so miserable from acting in front of nothing but a green scene that he thought about retiring from acting altogether. “The Return of the King” won 11 Academy Awards; I’ll be surprised if this movie wins any.

Sure, there are enough redeeming qualities to make this film enjoyable, but I’m such a die-hard Tolkien fan that I couldn’t imagine not watching this in theaters, no matter what the critics said. But I also couldn’t imagine that the final installment of this series would be so lackluster. Goodbye Middle-earth, we leave you going out not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Exactly how I feel too, Thranduil!

Quick December Check-In!

Especially after a very long weekend!

Hi everyone!

Just wanted to check-in and reassure you that I’m still here! It’s been a busy Thanksgiving break, but I’m looking forward to the dust settling and getting back into the swing of things! I’ve missed blogging!

Now that November is over, I can finally put NaNoWriMo behind me. My final word count barely topped 19,000 words, so it’s pretty obvious that 2014 just wasn’t my year. However, I learned a ton, and I still made progress on my novel! Hoping that I can gain some momentum, keeping the creative juices flowing this month and into the new year!

As for my book quota, I’ve been much more successful at reading than writing. I’ve completed the audiobook version of Yes Please by Amy Poehler and will post my review later this week. In the meantime, I’m working my way through my 20th book of 2014: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. Looks like I’m ahead of the game of finishing my reading goal for this year!

I also watched “Mockingjay: Part 1″ and “Gone Girl” over the holiday, so be on the lookout for my movie reviews this month! This fall has been an excellent season for film adaptations of books, and 2014 will end with a bang with the final installment of “The Hobbit” trilogy! Can’t wait!

So while I try to find the time for all these blog posts, let me know how you’re doing! Read any good books or see any fun movies? And what are your plans for December? It’s been forever, so catch me up!

Top Ten Favorite Film Adaptations of Books

When it comes to blogging memes, I don’t follow any consistently, but I like jumping in when I like the topic (not to mention, when I’ve got the time!). It’s rare that I post on a Tuesday, but Alison Doherty at Hardcovers and Heroines inspired me to discuss my favorite movie adaptations of books.

Without further ado! In order from good to greatest:

  • Fight Club, based on the book by Chuck Palahnuik

I was surprised to find out that Daniel Day-Lewis starred in two of these films…but then again, I shouldn’t be because he’s an amazing actor! So which movies would you add to your list?

If you’d like to follow this Top Ten meme, check out The Broke and The Bookish!

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Image via IMDB

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Oh wow, did this movie make my entire year! I think that all of us Tolkien fans have approached this trilogy with much-deserved skepticism, given that director Peter Jackson is stretching The Hobbit into three movies and padding the plot with a lot of invented material. Even as much as I love Legolas, I was worried that his cameo and the creation of Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly, weren’t going to add much value to the already amazing story.

However, I am so glad that this sequel lived up to my expectations, because very seldom has a 2 hour, 40 min movie been this exhilarating! Even my friend Celia, who is not familiar with the novel, enjoyed herself.

And how could you not? Every scene, from the lighthearted barrel escape to the dramatic confrontation between Gandalf and Sauron, kept you on the edge of your seat. It’s funny that despite already knowing the fates of these characters, every danger they faced still riveted me in suspense.

Of course, the magic of Tolkien is greatly enhanced in the 3D version. It’s still mind-blowing to see how far cinematic technology has come; watching the film with its high frame rate elevated the experience by immersing the audience in Middle-earth. You’ll appreciate each release of an arrow or buzz of a bee so much more if you spend those extra couple bucks and view the film the way it was intended to be viewed.

If you’re more impressed by acting than action scenes, not to worry either. It was easy to relate to each character, because they all had very specific motivations: Thorin and the dwarves to reclaim their homeland, Thranduil to protect Mirkwood from the evils of Dol Goldur, and Bard to make up for his ancestor’s failings and save Laketown.

That’s not to say these characters are one-dimensional. Martin Freeman did an amazing job portraying Bilbo, as we got to catch a glimpse of how the One Ring is slowly corrupting his mind. This usually good-natured hobbit is beginning to succumb to the darkness which will only be destroyed on Frodo’s own adventure.

But if you’re simply nodding your head impatiently, because you only care about one particular character, let me cut to the chase: Smaug has got to be the best depiction of a dragon that I have ever seen. Dare I say, possibly the best monster on film ever.

No image online will ever do Smaug justice!

I absolutely cannot wait to watch the behind-the-scenes footage to learn more about Smaug’s creation, because holy moly was he fantastic! And I’m not just saying that because he was voiced by the charming Benedict Cumberbatch, but let’s face it, that certainly helped!

I only docked this movie a half-point because with so much going on, oftentimes I felt that scenes changed too abruptly–especially during important moments like the one between Kili and Tauriel! And of course, the biggest abrupt change is the ending: yet another frustrating cliffhanger that forces fans to wait another year for the much-anticipated conclusion.

Let me know what you thought of “The Desolation of Smaug,” and be sure to check back soon for my final book review and my summary of 2013!

15 Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2014!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a lazy Sunday for me, after finishing my Christmas shopping and wrapping like a madwoman yesterday. Today, I’m just making some chicken and dumpling soup, organizing my stuff both online and IRL, and preparing for the last work week of the year before celebrating the holidays with family and friends.

I’m also reading my 15th and final book of 2013: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. It’s been an absolutely exquisite read so far, and I can’t wait to see how it all will end. What a fantastic way to close the year!

I also figured that since I’m reading my 15th book on the 15th of December, why not share 15 things I’m looking forward to in 2014? Sure, I could have picked 14 things to coincide with the new year, but I’ve always been a slight overachiever! So here we go!

1.     Celebrating my 25th birthday (on the 15th of September, no less!). One of my best friends is planning a surprise vacation for me, which I’ll find out about when we reunite for Christmas. She’s the perfect party planner, so I’m crazy excited!

2.     Paying off my student loan. My grace period ended last January, but in a year, I’ve managed to put over $3,000 to my student loan thanks to doubling the minimum payments and using my tax refund. I hope to eliminate the remaining balance so I can snowball those payments into my savings!

3.     Reading more books! Waiting for me on my bookshelf right now include Reached by Ally Condie, Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella, and When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro.

4.     Hollow City. The sequel to Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is finally being released on January 14th! Here’s to more creepy photos!

No shirt, no problem!

5.     The parade of pecs…I mean, of Greek myth movies. The Legend of Hercules (Jan. 10), Pompeii (Feb. 21), 300: Rise of an Empire (Mar. 7), and Hercules (Jul 25). Sure, they’ll probably hack the history, but hooray for chiseled chests and six-pack abs!

6.     The Hobbit: There and Back Again. I’m waiting to see The Desolation of Smaug with my family next weekend, but I’m pretty confident I will love it and this finale.

My Spidey sense is tingling 😉

7.     The Amazing Spiderman 2. Ok, last movie-related one, I promise. But it’s Andrew Garfield–’nuff said!

8.     The return of Community. Despite the drama off-screen, including Donald Glover’s early departure, I’m crossing my fingers for #SixSeasonsAndAMovie Cool cool cool!

9.     Game of Thrones, season 4. I realize that I’m wasting most of my bullets on the things I watch, but oh well! How could Peter Dinklage NOT make my list?

Blackjacks FTW!

10.     K-pop comebacks. Rumors are circulating that Korean girl bands 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation are planning to release albums early next year, and many more groups will be revealing new songs and videos. If you don’t know k-pop besides “Gangnam Style,” you’re missing out!

11.     Traveling to new places. I better boost my vacation fund, because the world is too big to sit in one spot for long!

Yummmm….

12.     Trying out new recipes. My “Nom Noms” board on Pinterest has a bunch of untested meals, and I’d like to get my cook on! I’m partial to anything with Nutella as an ingredient!

13.     Reaching 40,000 total blog views. And based on my stats, I should reach this milestone in a few months!

14.     Renewing my domain. I can’t believe I’ve been using bookclubbabe.net for almost a year! It’s been a wild ride!

15.      And of course, blogging! 2013 has been an incredible journey, and I know it’s only going to get better next year!

So what are you looking forward to in 2014? Let’s raise our glasses to another 365 days of awesomeness!

Movie Review: Catching Fire

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Apologies for the delay, but I’m finally recovering after suffering a cold for the past couple days. But I’m back and ready to share my thoughts on November’s biggest film!

I may anger a lot of fans by beginning my post this way, but here it goes: I know that The Hunger Games gets compared to Twilight simply for being blockbuster series with teenage love triangles, but a part of me now understands the comparison.

Point taken, but I still went there!

Hear me out!

The similarity has mostly to do with my opinion of each story’s ending rather than anything serious, like female autonomy and benevolent sexism. It’s just that at this stage in my life, I’m watching these movies just to go through the motions because I’m dreading how it all will conclude.

Those who have been reading Book Club Babe know how much I despised Mockingjay, so it makes sense that I was only moderately excited about seeing “Catching Fire.” (If you want to see me ecstatic, join me at the “The Desolation of Smaug” premiere!)

One more week until the gratuitous inclusion of Legolas! #SorryNotSorry

But just like “Breaking Dawn” was so horrendous that I haven’t even gotten around to finishing the final film, I’m feeling lukewarm about this dystopia. To me, the genre needs a well-deserved break because this bandwagon feels two years old.

(Speaking of outdated, here’s another inflammatory opinion: “Divergent” sounds like a cheap knockoff riding the dystopian wave, and watching the trailer before “Catching Fire” only reinforced my belief that I’m so ready for something new).

That being said, I’m not here to judge a movie based on its inevitable sequel. I actually have little negative to say about “Catching Fire,” like so many other viewers.

All the actors in the film did a great job, from Jennifer Lawrence suffering nightmares as Katniss to Stanley Tucci as the sickeningly sycophantic Caesar Flickerman. I was simultaneously admiring and scorning the Capitol’s display of weath, with their flamboyant costumes and ostentatious parties.

In fact, it was interesting to watch this movie with both my parents this time, since my dad and I are the only ones in my immediate family who have read the book. My mom hadn’t even seen “The Hunger Games,” so all she knew was the quick explanation we gave her on the way to the theater.

Ever filled with kindness, my mom found it difficult to stomach the story, and I don’t blame her. The unnecessary violence and disparity in socioeconomic power is disgusting and infuriating. I can only hope that people desire the same change in our own society as they want for Panem.

They didn’t call it “panem et circenses” for nothing!

All in all, watching “Catching Fire” was timely during Thanksgiving, reminding me to grateful for all that I have. And even though this whole splitting the finale into two films is another trend that won’t die, I’m just thankful that such a disappointing ending will be recreated by an amazing cast and crew.

Now move over dystopias, and make way for the hobbits!